On October 12, 2002, Bali fell victim to the deadliest act of terrorism in Indonesia's history. Three bombs were detonated in busy nightclubs in the popular Kuta district, killing 202 people and injuring more than 200 others. Among the dead were 11 tourists from Hong Kong, 88 Australians and 38 Indonesians. Members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a violent Islamist group, were convicted over the bombings and in November 2008 Imam Samudra, Amrozi Nurhasyim and Huda bin Abdul Haq were executed by firing squad.
Jewel of the archipelago
Guy Bedaria had a life of glamour in New York as head designer of Van Cleef & Arpels. But a phone call from Bali-based eco jeweller John Hardy prompted his relocation to Asia.
'They were looking for someone to head the creative team, and felt I was the right man for the job. I was flattered, but turned them down initially,' says Bedaria. 'The next day, John Hardy himself called and said, 'I respect your decision but please can I ask you to come and visit Bali?' My boss at Van Cleef didn't take the offer seriously and told me to go for a holiday. So I went and fell in love with the artisanship. It was a revelation.'
Though Hardy himself retired more than three years ago, Bedaria remains committed to the brand. 'Not only because of the craftsmanship - I think we are the only luxury jewellery brand in a developing country - but also because of the brand philosophy. We have a strong commitment to the environment and the community,' he says.
As creative chief, Bedaria has a demanding schedule. He was recently in town for the Hong Kong Art Fair and to launch the John Hardy artist in residence programme, which begins this August with artist Teresita Fernandez working alongside the brand's artisans.
Bedaria is also busy training six young apprentices from a Bali orphanage in the art of jewellery making. 'Ten months ago, they could hardly use the tools, but now they are doing great. We plan to keep them on,' he says. The trainees are based at the John Hardy compound in Mambal, which is open to the public. Guests have the opportunity to see how the jewellery is hand-crafted, and then tuck into organic cuisine with produce sourced from the on-site farm.
Bedaria lives in the trendy, upscale area of Seminyak on the south of the island and this is where he does most of his socialising.
'There's one place that I particularly love called Sardine, which is built in bamboo and overlooks rice fields. I usually order a Negroni [gin, Campari and martini] there,' he says. 'Then there's a new place called Potato Head, a restaurant-bar that's decked out in recycled materials. It's great for brunch - there's everything from crepes to eggs Benedict - and it has a big swimming pool, so everyone ends up in there on the weekend.'
Bedaria also gives the thumbs up to the Rock Bar at the Ayana resort in Jimbaran, where waves crash dramatically against the rocks on which it is built. Access is via an outdoor lift, which heightens the spectacle. 'It's like a terrace right on the ocean, with amazing views. But it gets busy so you have to get there early.'
Bali is paradise for shopping, Bedaria says, particularly Seminyak. 'There's a clothes store and art gallery called Biasa. The clothes are beautiful - many are made from Indian and Egyptian cotton - and the art gallery showcases some of the best avant-garde Indonesian artists and, occasionally, shows European art, too.'
Bedaria also recommends visiting Johnny Ramli's workshop in Seminyak. The designer incorporates antique coins and religious icons into his jewellery, and also makes clutches and totes in contrasting materials such as silk and leather.
Shoe aficionados shouldn't miss Niluh Djelantik's store in nearby Kuta (15 minutes north of Seminyak) for items such as floral print platforms and leopard-skin flats. Celebrities such as Uma Thurman and Gisele Bundchen have been spotted wearing Djelantik's creations.
No trip to Bali is complete without a spa visit, and Bedaria's favourite is luxury retreat Como Shambhala, a one-hour drive from Denpasar airport in rural Gianyar. 'It's well known but it's worthy of the hype as it's just unbelievable,' he says. 'But the good thing is that there are lots of little spas in Bali, too, and one of my favourites is Jari Menari, an American brand staffed by Balinese. I usually go for the reflexology treatments or a Javanese scrub, which uses lots of local herbs. I love the fact that the name means 'dancing fingers'.'
Given his commitment to sustainability, it's unsurprising that Bedaria singles out luxury eco resort Alila Uluwatu, on a clifftop plateau on the Bukit Peninsula almost at the southern tip of Bali, as one of his favourite Bali hotels. The food alone makes it worth a visit, he says.
'The Warung restaurant serves up really good Indonesian food such as sate lilit [minced seafood satay] and the property is extremely refined from top to bottom.'
For those seeking a more centrally located option, he recommends Seminyak's Villa Bali Asri, 11 luxury villas that each come with their own pool. 'We send many of our friends and customers there, as the decor is exquisite and the staff are great,' he says.
Having lived in Bali for more than a decade, Bedaria is full of general sightseeing tips. 'I love hiking up Mount Batur to watch the sunrise. When you arrive at the top, you can see over to Lombok and Java, which is magical. It only takes about two hours but you have to do it when there's a full moon, so you can see where you are walking.'
As for beaches, he loves Geger beach near Nusa Dua. 'You can hire a little boat, go surfing around there or just swim. The water is really like the Maldives and it's very quiet.'
Something that appeals to Bedaria's creative side is a trip to the ancient Balinese village of Tenganan, located on the eastern side of the island, where you can pick up sturdy hand-woven bags and jewellery crafted by talented gold and silversmiths.
'The attention to detail in the jewellery is amazing,' he says. 'Maybe it's because Bali once had eight kings, and all the kingdoms would compete against one another to show off their artisan skills.'
Life's a beach for jewellery designers
The John Hardy compound is open from Monday to Saturday. Tours available by appointment only: Br Baturning, Mambal Abiansemal, Badung. www.johnhardy.com
Sardine: 21 Jalan Petitenget, Kerobokan. www.sardinebali.com
Potato Head: Pacific Place Mall, G51A SCBD Jalan Jend. Suduriman Kav. 52-53. Jaksel. www.ptthead.com
The Rock Bar: Ayana Resort, Jalan Karang Mas Sejahtera, Jimbaran. www.ayanaresort.com
Biasa: Jalan Raya, Seminyak 36. www.biasabali.com
Johnny Ramli: Jalan Petitenget, no 198, Unit B, Kerobokan, Seminyak. www.johnnyramli.com
Niluh Djelantik; 144 Jalan Raya Kerobokan, Kuta, tel: +62 81756 7888
Como Shambhala: Banjar Begawan, Deas Melinggih Kelod, Payangan, Gianyar. www.cse.como.bz
Jari Menari, 47 Jalan Raya Basangkasa, Seminyak. www.jarimenari.com
Alila Villas Uluwatu: Jalan Belimbing Sari, Banjar Tambiyak, Desa Pecatu. www.alilahotels.com
Villa Bali Asri: Jalan Saridewi, Seminyak-Oberoi, Kuta. www.villabaliasri.com
Garuda Indonesia recently introduced a daily direct flight to Denpasar airport, Bali, from HK$3,390. www.garuda-indonesia.com